The evidence is not clear on how – or even whether – snacking, breakfast eating or meal size links to weight. A large study adds new data to this body of research suggesting that fewer daily meals and snacks can help prevent weight gain, at least for this healthy group. For cancer prevention, staying a healthy weight is key to reducing risk for many common cancers like endometrial, postmenopausal breast and colorectal.
The authors analyzed data from the Adventist Health Study that includes over 50,000 North American adults. At the beginning of the study, participants reported their height and weight, as well as health habits like exercise, sleep and television watching. They also reported their eating habits via 24 hour recalls and a food frequency questionnaire.
The participants – members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church – tend to be more health-conscious, nonsmokers, mostly nondrinkers and eat less meat than most Americans.
Researchers used this data to determine how many meals – including snacks and breakfast – participants ate, and which meals were typically largest. They calculated participants’ weight changes by comparing Body Mass Index (BMI) at the beginning and end of the study.
An average of 7 years later, the study found:
For participants eating 1 or 2 meals a day, their BMI decreased in comparison to those eating 3 meals per day.
If you’re like many people you may think that eating a healthy diet means higher food costs, whether you eat out or cook. But a recent study finds that people who cook more dinners save $2 a day on food – and they have significantly healthier diets than those who cook less often.
This matters for cancer prevention. A healthy diet – one with plenty of vegetables, whole grains and beans, low in sugar and added fat – provides cancer protective nutrients and helps you get to and stay a healthy weight, an important step to lowering cancer risk. Obesity increases risk for many cancers, including colorectal, endometrial and liver.
Over the last two years, I’ve loved being part of several workshops for dietitians and chefs who are bringing a new approach to cancer care. It’s about actively engaging those diagnosed with cancer in learning to choose and prepare healing foods and a health-promoting diet.
That’s important because cancer patients undergoing treatment and after can face a lot of eating challenges, including changes in appetite, energy, and food preferences. These choices can take a toll on strength, vitality and even ability to continue a treatment plan.